word of mouth...

Lanquin Travel Blog

 › entry 11 of 14 › view all entries

So, the story continues. I left san pedro only six days ago, and it feels like I’ve traveled twice around the globe.  My second attempt at getting out of san pedro was a success, but I only made it as far as Antigua and the state of the roads prevented me from going further. a successful market visit, during which a little old  man shadowed me with a sweet smile while trying to sell me, first, a pocket knife – then, a machete, and finally, a sword.  I’m glad I had enough Spanish to take the piss out of him a little… “What do you think that I would need with a sword?”  Which probably came out as “Que pienses yo necessito una…uh…sword?  El sword? “  I got the result I sought – a chuckle and a slap on the back, followed by a ‘que tenge un buen dia.

“ and him moving on to three eighteen year old American lads .  A great dinner with Alex and Vivi at Traveler Menu, followed by live music (which I crashed, of course) at Café No Se proved to be a worthwhile layover. 

When the PACKED shuttle bus pulled up as I was just two sips into my coffee the next morning, I pulled some real grumbly New Yorker shit…real attitude, like.  Turns out, the people who filled every last seat for the sweltering 8 hour bus ride were cool as shit.  By the time we arrived in Lanquin, cuba libres mixed in coke bottles were being passed around by a rowdy, sweet spirited woman from the Costa Brava.    I convinced my new friend Chrysta from LA to join me at Zephyr Lodge, a place that a bad ass couple I met in San Pedro recommended.

  (Side note…am SOOOOO happy I travel by word of mouth on the gringo trail than by guidebook.  If you turn to the RIGHT people you meet, you wind up at the RIGHT places).

Chrysta and I wound up scoring the last two beds in the dorm… mine can only be described by the photo I’ve included in this blog.  It was the only one like it in the room – the rest were bunks and less private.  I got really, really lucky.  After taking in the jaw dropping scenery from an open air shower, scarfing down a surprisingly excellent chicken parm, a beer, a few chats and some hammock time, I decided that more than a day and a half was necessary to fully absorb the power of the zephyr.  I was sad not to go back to guate city to see mila and corey… but It would have been backtracking many, many hours, anyway.


I had decided to go to lanquin/semuc champey at the advice of my friend, matt.  As I write, he is socking away won to buy his own little ‘el retiro.’  El Retiro has been a successful riverside hostel in lanquin for a number of years.  It is where I had intended to stay until Jason and Kelly raved about the views from zephyr.   it was SUCH a good decision, as el retiro’s hotel and restaurant/bar owner aren’t currently on good terms, ie…the restaurant and bar weren’t operational. 

After a beautiful sleep in my perfectly situated bed, I cracked my eyes open and instead of the scenery beyond the window being the first thing my brain registered, the first thing I saw was a baby salamander, about the length of my pinky, creeping over the window ledge to look at me.

  A moment later, his teeny brother (I think they must have just hatched) followed him onto my window sill and they proceeded to chase each other in front of my dopey grin.

Our semuc champey tour was a raging success.   I decided to hang by myself at the office on the river as the rest of the group did the cave tour.  Not only am  ridiculously claustrophobic, but even with big, airy caves I’m like, meh.  I told my cohorts to have fun and plopped into a hammock with a notebook and pen in hand.  Within minutes,  I heard an outburst of exhilarated shouts.  I jumped up and ran down the trail to find that the tour began by jumping off a wooden swing into the river.  I was soooo down to do THAT.  After the group returned from the caves (and I got a few affirmations of my decision not to go) a few people jumped off a high bridge while I played videographer, then we hiked for a very sweaty 45 minutes to a vista, where our mouths all watered as we snapped photos of the aqua blue pools forty stories below us.  The swimming that followed was as refreshing and rewarding as refreshing and rewarding get.  Carlos, our tour guide, infected us with his gusto and the group got on like a house on fire.  Of course, having been the only one in the group who neither went in the caves nor jumped off anything high, I ate shit on the stairs on the way out of the park and was the only one who returned to zephyr with battle wounds. 

By that night, our hostel was at CAPACITY…I mean, every bed filled, mattresses in the office, each of the six hammocks claimed. And then, the running water stopped running.  But nobody really cared.  Except, of course the owners and hostel staff…who did everything in their power to keep us comfortable, well fed, well entertained and buzzed.  People came and went, but for the remaining two days I was there, the hostel was so full that they had no choice but to turn people away.  Really, nobody, was turned away. Each traveler that showed up was offered a hammock or a spot on a mattress… but a few who had been pulled off their bus directly in front of el retiro (which did, in fact, have beds) by carlos, only to be dragged up a hill in the rain to a place that had neither beds OR running water, got pretty annoyed and the hostel staff gladly transported them down the hill to warm beds.  To be fair, carlos makes his living by taking zephyr’s guests on tours – the more guests, the more money in his pocket.  I get that.

My next two days revolved around chilling, drawing and tubing down the river (which also served as a substitute for showers).    As me and my awesome companions were floating lazily down the river post spliff, I kept sweeping my gaze across my breathtaking surroundings and thinking about how lucky I am.  I think every one of my blogs that I write when traveling involves some line about how blessed I am to have discovered the global village.  This time around I’ll note what a privilege it is to have discovered the zephyr lodge.  I’m quite certain that no matter how many stamps I acquire, I won’t find a place as magical as lanquin or hosts as accommodating as Chris and Thomas.   Not only did they, along with their volunteer staff (Damon, Julie, Tyler and Andrew) and the dogs, puppies and kittens make my stay in lanquin so perfect, but they sent me onto their friend Rusty’s hostel, Casa de la Iguana, in Livingston, where I am now. 

Livingston is a sleepy little shanty town on the Caribbean, with a diverse population of mayans, garafunas, Chinese and Indians. I have one more day to enjoy it (jungle hike leaving in 10 minutes, followed by dinner at a restaurant owned by maria – a Mexican woman who lived in india and Thailand and who started rapping to me about reduction sauces five minutes into our conversation)…then off to collect mi prima, sarah in the bay islands.  WHAT A LIFE!

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photo by: siri